Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dumb rail projects crowd out good transit investment

SMART claims that it was paid for by the 1/4 cent sales tax and has only cost $429 million. So I decided to dig and understand if this was the real story.

Remember as you read this SMART clearly states they do not help solve congestion, they position themselves as an "alternative" or "option." (Source: KQED Forum on the Road, June 2016, 16 minute mark.)

SMART promised never to divert funding away from other transportation projects. They purported to be self-sufficient on its 1/4 cent sales tax, for which it claimed in Measure Q to be able to deliver a line from Cloverdale to Larkspur and a multi-use path. Neither of these are being delivered and the excuses continue to pile up. But what about the funding? Has SMART adhered to its promise not to divert?

Here's a list of the SMART's funding to date---this funding is in addition to those generated by the Measure Q sales tax...

As predicted, the SMART train is cannibalizing regional transportation funding that would be better spent and more desperately needed elsewhere. Rather than fighting global warming it is not only increasing greenhouse gas emissions, but it is diverting funding away from projects that would genuinely have helped with that fight.

One might say, "It had better have very high ridership if it costs this much" but ridership estimates rather than being a pivotal consideration have been a secondary consideration. The SMART Board is all at sea when it comes to working out what fares might attract reasonable ridership---finally landing on higher fares sure to make SMART's ridership even lower...

Rob's comment:

The comments to the above article are a must-read.

The same cannibalization charge can be made against the state's high-speed rail project:

In addition to the[$2.5 billion] stimulus grant, the California project is receiving about $500 million a year from state greenhouse gas fees and an additional $1 billion federal grant approved in 2010. But it faces an estimated $43.5-billion shortfall to complete the San Francisco to Anaheim system by 2029...

It never was likely that the federal government was going to provide the money required to build this system. It's particularly unlikely now that the Republicans control the government. That's a lot of money already wasted on a system that's unlikely to ever get built that could have been used to repair roads all over the state, including in San Francisco and in Marin.

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